The winners of the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature were selected amongst national shortlists of two to five books. The list of shortlisted titles and authors for each of the participating countries was published by the EUPL on 16 April 2020.
Excerpts from the 13 winning books of the EUPL 2020 will be translated and featured in an anthology to be published at a later date. The digital version of the anthology will be freely accessible on the EUPL website.
Nathalie Skowronek, La carte des regrets (The map of regrets), Paris, Grasset, 2020, Language: French, ISBN: 978-2-2468-2151-9
Belgium’s participation this year stands for French-speaking Belgium only, after Dutch-speaking Belgium was represented in the 2010 and 2016 editions of the prize.
The EUPL jury for Belgium comments: “La carte de regrets is a book of beautiful mastery and powerful sobriety, written around a theme - that of choices of love and life - yet prompt to impudent and displaced effusions. Here, the psychological dimension woven around the conflict between loyalty and freedom feeds on a feminine portrait rooted in its time, with its own blind spots and unthinkable. With this book, Nathalie Skowronek confirms a writer’s approach that yields nothing to ease and a great cohesion of her overall work.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Lana Bastašić, Uhvati zeca (Catch the Rabbit), Sarajevo, Buybook, 2019, Language: Bosnian, ISBN: 978-9-9583-0443-9
The EUPL jury for Bosnia and Herzegovina comments: “The novel Uhvati zeca features an original approach to the issue of identity, and readers are warned that heroines have been formed in a culture with a masculine literary canon (…) We strongly believe that this novel will find new readers in new languages and (that) it can help to enlighten the dark heritage of the wars after the dissolution of Yugoslavia.”
Maša Kolanović, Poštovani kukci i druge jezive priče (Dear insects and other scary stories), Zagreb, Profil knjiga d.o.o., 2019, Language: Croatian, ISBN: 978-9-5331-3684-4
The EUPL jury for Croatia comments: “By skillful storytelling, the author creates a kind of Kafkaesque existential anxiety that goes beyond the description of the local community hitting the sore points of the globalized society. Consumption that replaces humanity, motherhood that is not decent to talk about, banks as sinister pillars of our society, adds intensifying unhealthy cravings ... this is the world explored in this masterfully written prose (...) The problems are universal, so the characters are easy to identify with, but the main value of this narrative is not just storytelling, but the author’s compassion and humaneness. Dark and absurd, yet deeply intimate, powerful and socially sensitive stories. In short, a skillfully written, brave and eerily good book.”
Σταύρος Χριστοδούλου (Stavros Christodoulou), Τη μέρα που πάγωσε ο ποταμός (The day the river froze), Athens, Kastaniotis Publications, 2018, Language: Greek, ISBN: 978-9-6003-6365-4
The EUPL jury for Cyprus comments: “The murder of a famous painter in Athens serves as the deceptively simple starting point of this novel. As the story follows the main protagonist, the narrative focuses on a variety of geographical locations and human conditions, which results in an element of alluring cosmopolitanism that endows the novel with a distinct texture and gives breadth and depth to the plot. (…) The committee considers Christodoulou’s novel to be the most suitable for the prize since it possesses qualities that will appeal to European readers, translators and publishers.”
Asta Olivia Nordenhof, Penge på lommen (Money in your pocket), Copenhagen, Basilisk, 2020, Language: Danish, ISBN: 978-8-7930-7771-3
The EUPL jury for Denmark comments: “Penge på lommen is the first volume in a planned seven-volume work, a so-called septology, about the "Scandinavian Star" and the fire disaster that cost 159 people’s lives the night of 7 April, 1990. We explored through the narrator the connection between economy and human life, and the book appears almost as a battle-ready manifesto. The language is beautiful, narrative and very figurative (…) An incredibly beautiful and appalling novel.”
Mudlum (Made Luiga), Poola poisid (Polish Boys), Tallinn, Strata, 2019, Language: Estonian, ISBN: 978-9-9490-1252-7
The EUPL jury for Estonia comments: “The novel was chosen for its concept and leitmotif (ideals meet reality) which is universal in any contemporary society. The second argument was the author's command of style and language which is unique in Estonian literature. The novel is not bounded by regional or national particularities and is in this respect truly European. (…) Poola poisid would be a worthy example of Estonian literature on the European book market.”
Matthias Nawrat, Der traurige Gast (The Sad Guest), Berlin, Rowohlt, 2019, Language: German, ISBN: 978-3-4980-4704-7
The EUPL jury for Germany comments: “Matthias Nawrat's novel Der traurige Gast reflects on the logic and linearity of history and its supposed causality. Little by little, Matthias Nawrat condenses the main themes of migration and, as a countermovement, homeland exploration, and reflects on them through different characters. (…) Der traurige Gast is a quiet but urgent novel, written in a language rich in associations, which also leaves room for a comforting spark of residual hope.”
Shpëtim Selmani, Libërthi i dashurisë (The Booklet of Love), Prishtina, Armagedoni, 2019, Language: Albanian, ISBN: 978-9-9517-8011-7
Kosovo* is participating for the first time ever in the European Union Prize for Literature.
The EUPL jury for Kosovo* comments: “Shpëtim Selmani's book is a novelty in the Albanian prose. His novel is a hybrid composition of different genres (…) and this blend of styles might suit the term invented by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk: “the constellation novel” (…) He uses the frivolous to reflect on ever discussed topics such as the cruel and painful encounter of the individual with the collective, thus opening up questions which sound tangible in the global context of the post-pandemic world.”
Francis Kirps, Die Mutationen: 7 Geschichten und ein Gedicht (The Mutations: 7 Stories and a Poem), Luxembourg, Hydre Editions, 2019, Language: Germand & Luxembourgish, ISBN: 978-2-9199-5413-1
Francis Kirps’ awarded book for Luxembourg uses both German and Luxembourgish languages.
The EUPL jury for Luxembourg comments: “The jury was particularly impressed by the skilful intertextual weavings, the transplantation of plots and characters and their recasting in new unprecedented ways. While an awareness of the pretexts undoubtedly heightens the pleasure of reading, Kirps’ stories manage to stand on their own however as they are entirely carried by a carefully crafted and powerful authorial voice and by the exceptional strength of Kirps’ imaginative power.”
Stefan Bošković, Ministar (Minister), Podgorica, Nova knjiga, 2019, Language: Montenegrin, ISBN: 978-8-6747-0813-2
The EUPL jury for Montenegro comments: “The very title of Bošković's novel clearly marks the starting point. His minister is not a metaphor for anything or the key to embodying any of Montenegro's current Balkan politicians. Simply put, Boskovic's minister is first and foremost a dilettante. The spider is lost in an irresistibly attractive game (...) of egomania, personal frustrations and political power. (...) Bošković's novel, not only does not betray expectations, but peeks behind the scenes of the system simulation, touching on places to which the literature of South Slavic languages has not travelled so far.”
Петар Андоновски (Petar Andonovski), Страв од варвари (Fear of Barbarians), Skopje, Ili-ili, 2018, Language: Macedonian, ISBN: 978-6-0847-7093-0
The EUPL jury for North Macedonia comments: "Страв од варвари is a short novel written as a thread of two interchanging stories, told by two female voices (…) each of the two narratives contains many additional, intertwined stories. It is this multiplication of stories and the diversity of ways in which they are told (…) that makes this book exciting, readable and dynamic. (…) The novel very skilfully connects two quite distant worlds: the one of post-Chernobyl Ukraine/SSSR and the one of an isolated Greek island community. By quoting Konstantinos Kavafis’ poetry and invoking J. M. Coetzee’s novel Waiting for the Barbarians, it can also be read in light of issues stemming from the recent refugee crisis, such as perception of otherness and positioning of European borders. It is therefore a contribution to literary explorations of the notions of “foreign” and “barbaric” as juxtaposed to “indigenous” and “civilized”, questioning their actual existence by presenting the process of their construction.”
Maria Navarro Skaranger, Bok om sorg (Fortellingen om Nils i skogen) (Book of Grief (The Story of Nils in the Woods)), Oslo, Oktober, 2018, Language: Norwegian, ISBN: 978-8-2495-1975-0
The EUPL jury for Norway comments: “Bok om sorg (Fortellingen om Nils i skogen) " is a wise and easily accessible novel on a subject for which there are no simple explanations, and where the resonances are profound and rich. Simple sentences and sharp observations create an almost transparent story. Life is being unfolded in a nuanced and broad spectrum in an extremely effective and concentrated way of telling. In a straight, direct and sober language through 240 short passages, a dramatic family history gradually evolves.”
Irene Solà, Canto jo I la muntanya balla (I sing and the mountain dances), Barcelona, Anagrama, 2019, Language: Catalan, ISBN: 978-8-4339-1568-9
The European Union Prize for Literature for Spain will go for the first time ever to a book in Catalan.
The EUPL jury for Spain comments: “The jury has selected this work for the richness, naturalness and expressiveness of its language, for the poetic and imaginative way of explaining a series of stories located in a natural and border setting, through various narrators, some unexpected. A novel that combines beauty and toughness, with its own universe narrated in a vigorous and surprising style.”